July 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 27 June 2008
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ASIA

Nepal

Expected Council Action

In July the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Nepal, Ian Martin will brief the Council on the Secretary General’s latest report on the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and the future of the mission. UNMIN’s mandate expires on 23 July.

At the time of writing, the UN had not received any request from Nepal regarding UNMIN’s future role.

Recent Key Developments
In mid-June Nepalese media reported that Maoist deputy chief Baburam Bhattarai had indicated that UNMIN would be needed to monitor the army camps but a large contingent would not be necessary. This was a shift from earlier reports that the Maoists’, who will make up the majority in the government, were hesistant about a future UNMIN presence.

On 15 June, Martin met with Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as “Prachanda.” Among the issues discussed was army integration and the issue of adjustment and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants, which has become a sticking point in power-sharing negotiations.

Since the Constituent Assembly elections on 10 April, the three main parties—the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist)—have been negotiating the formation of a new government. While the Maoists won the largest number of seats for a constituent-drafting assembly, they did not secure a clear majority and still need to form a coalition government. In an attempt to resolve the deadlock, the Maoists, who had been insisting on the positions of prime minister and president, said they will give up the president’s post.

The seven Maoist ministers in the interim government resigned twice in June. The first time on 12 June was an attempt to press Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to leave office. On 20 June, the seven ministers resigned collectively during a meeting of the seven ruling parties after negotiations failed to break the deadlock over the formation of the government. They currently remain outside the interim government.

On 28 May, the Constituent Assembly convened for the first time and proclaimed Nepal a republic. Both the Secretary-General and his Special Representative issued statements congratulating the people of Nepal on the achievement of convening a historic Constituent Assembly.

The first Constituent Assembly also agreed that former King Gyanendra had to vacate his palace in 15 days. He went without resistance on 10 June. The palace is to be converted into a museum.

On 22 May, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Ian Martin briefed the Council following the Constituent Assembly elections. He said Nepal still faced very considerable challenges. In his report in May (S/2008/313), the Secretary-General said the UN “stands ready to provide continuing support for the completion and consolidation of the peace process.”

On 19 May, UNMIN condemned the killing of a local businessman, Ram Hari Shrestha, inside the Maoist cantonment as a breach of commitments made in the Agreement on Monitoring the Management of Arms and Armies (AMMAA). Maoist army commanders admitted to UNMIN that the murder was committed by members of their group.

On 18 June, the Maoists agreed to reign its youth arm, the Young Communists League (YCL), (which has functioned as an armed unit that uses violence and intimidation) and to restructure it into a political organisation in 15 days.

On 8 June, 185 Tibetan exiles were detained as they protested outside the Chinese embassy. Seven hundred protestors were detained for participating in anti-Chinese demonstrations on 19 June. The protestors are demanding an end to suppression of Tibetans in China. (There are about 20,000 Tibetans in exile living in Nepal.)

Options
The Council’s options will be steered by what the Nepalese government asks the UN to do. If the Council is asked to continue to support the peace process, the most likely option is a new mandate for a limited period.

A possible option if the Nepalese government indicates it wants UNMIN to assist, but has not yet clarified the role it would like it to play, is a possible rollover for one or two months.

In addition, the Council could ask the Secretary-General for a report on UNMIN focusing on lessons learned.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is how to handle the uncertainty as to whether there will be a request for continuing support beyond 23 July. Some ongoing UNMIN functions can be performed by UN agencies that will continue in Nepal, such as the UN Development Programme and the UN High Commission for Human Rights. Other functions such as arms monitoring will require UNMIN to continue in some form.

A related issue is what to do if there is no clear request for UNMIN by 23 July. Shutting down, then restarting a mission is likely to be impractical and much more costly than keeping it running.

A key issue therefore is where the parties are headed regarding the future of the national and former rebel armies in Nepal. This will be directly relevant to any possible future arms monitoring role for the UN.

Another issue is the future stability of the government. The differences which have emerged during the negotiations for formation of the government may signal ongoing fragility. A related issue is whether the Maoists can transform the YCL into a law-abiding body and keep it under control.

A further issue is how the new government will handle issues like compensation for victims, investigation into disappearances and the return of property and internally displaced persons, and whether it will have the political will to bring to justice those responsible for violence and human rights abuses. A perception that either side had impunity could trigger discontent and unrest.

Council Dynamics
Council members generally agree that there is a need for the UN to continue to support the peace process in Nepal. Most are reluctant to discuss the form or role of the mission until the wishes of the Nepalese government are known.

China has clearly stated that any future role must begin with a request from the Nepalese government. Others, like the UK, which is the lead country on Nepal, have flagged that UNMIN’s future role should not be indefinite and would like to see an exit strategy discussed together with any new mandate.

The US position on dealing with the Maoists, who are still on its terrorism blacklist, appears to be softening. At the end of May, a US senior government official met Maoists leaders in Kathmandu signalling an attempt to work with the new government. However, the future relationship seems likely to depend on the Maoists fully embracing the political process.

Maoist leader Prachanda, tipped to be the prime minister in Nepal’s new government, has said he wants to have a policy of “equidistance”—or not siding with any country and trying to have good relations with all Nepal’s neighbours. This could signal the start of a new balance in Nepal’s ties with both China and India.

Underlying Problems
A 25 percent fuel hike in early June led to protests in Kathmandu. Increasing fuel and food prices could pose a challenge for the new government. In January a similar increase was withdrawn after nationwide protests.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolution

  • S/RES/1796 (23 January 2008) extended UNMIN until 23 July 2008.
  • S/RES/1740 (23 January 2007) established UNMIN for 12 months.

Secretary General’s Reports

  • S/2008/313 (12 May 2008) was the last report of the Secretary-General on the request of Nepal for UN assistance in support of its peace process.

Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2006/49 (1 December 2006) expressed support for the Secretary-General’s intention to send a technical assessment team to Nepal and noted that the Council would await formal proposals.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission

Ian Martin (UK)

Size and Composition

Latest figures are not available as UNMIN is in the midst of downsizing.

Duration

23 January 2007 to 23 July 2008

Cost

$88.8 million

Full forecast